We put a lot of effort into our training sessions - wouldn't it be great if we could burn extra calories at rest too? That’s where something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC — a state your body gets into when you push yourself to your max — comes into play.
Here’s what you need to know about EPOC.
What is it? When you perform high-intensity exercise, your body demands a higher volume of oxygen to continue pushing yourself. After you do 20 seconds of all-out, maximum effort, you find yourself out of breath because (surprise, surprise) your body is trying to get that oxygen back. This need to replenish oxygen continues after you've finished your workout - depending on the intensity of your training session, the longer the EPOC effect will last, up to 48 hours.
The body's metabolism is raised during this period to assist the body in maintaining normal oxygen levels and to bring the body back to homeostasis.
As your body is working to get back to its resting state, it’s burning calories. How many calories exactly and for how long? This all depends on the individuals age, weight, muscle mass. However, we burn approximately 5 calories per litre of oxygen we consume. If we achieve the maximum 48 hours EPOC, this means we could be burning an additional 240 calories at rest.
What's the best exercise to induce this effect?
Technically speaking, EPOC happens when your body is at rest, so in a sense, it’s burning more calories than normal while you’re doing nothing. But like all good things in life, it doesn’t come free. To enjoy the extra calorie burn at rest, you're going to have to earn it through a tough high-intensity workout.
A greater EPOC can be achieved by performing short bursts of maximum intensity work, followed by short lower intensity 'rest periods'. Think 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest, or tabata style workouts like 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. Try to keep your workouts between 15-30 mins!
Any other benefits to EPOC?
Burning more calories at rest may seem too good to be true, but because you have to put in max effort to do so, is it worth it? Well it can increase your VO2 max, so can effectively improve your endurance running!
Some people find it tough to find time to get in the gym and train - if this is you, I challenge you to do a couple of high-intensity workouts at home and get the most of the EPOC effect. Need ideas for workouts? Get in touch!